Published on May 04, 2016

Global Partners volunteer: 'I would go back in a heartbeat'

Global Partners volunteers demonstrate there is no such thing as a "cookie cutter" volunteer. Those who donate their time and talent come from different departments, offering a wide array of valuable knowledge and skills to communities they serve. Bubba (Kurt) Thesing, general maintenance worker, Facility Operations, was able to donate his time on a Global Partners trip to Ethiopia in February.

Bubba Thesing working

Bubba Thesing, general maintenance worker, Facility Operations, hard at work repairing broken autoclave sterilization equipment.

As a mechanic, Bubba joined the volunteer team with the intention of fixing autoclave equipment at Project Mercy's hospital, a non-governmental organization in Yetebon, Ethiopia. He quickly discovered that his duties went beyond his original expectations. "I was going in thinking I would fix a sterilizer, but it was everything...ultrasonic, bilirubin light, a couple suctions, a couple stretchers, carts - you name it, they came and got me," says Bubba.

As with all Global Partners' efforts, the focus is on making an impact that will far outlive a volunteer's presence. Bubba not only fixed everything that came his way, he readily embraced the role of educator. He taught Project Mercy staff how to read meters, fix broken cords, check fuses and a number of other skills. "I don't want to take over their jobs," says Bubba. "They should do their own job and their own work. I just gave them the tools."

In particular, Bubba had the chance to share his knowledge with the local hospital mechanic, Wondi, who at the time did not have his own tool kit and would often have to improvise. Bubba successfully taught Wondi several mechanical skills during his 10 days at Project Mercy. While they started with a basic expectation to work, they emerged with a mutual appreciation and new-found friendship.

Bubba Thesing with Wondi

Wondi, general maintenance worker at Project Mercy in Ethiopia, and Bubba Thesing, Gundersen general maintenance worker, are all smiles before beginning a long day’s work.

"He was a great teacher for Wondi, and Wondi was an eager student," says Katie Farka, registered nurse and Global Partners volunteer. Katie often worked in close proximity to Bubba and Wondi, and saw the bond they built. "The sterilizer room is right next to the post-op room and I often heard roaring laughter coming from there!" says Katie.

Bubba's work and presence on the trip made a long-lasting positive impression on other volunteers and the Ethiopian community. Looking back at the experience, Bubba thinks it would be a great idea to get together a team of mechanics to teach at Project Mercy. When asked if he would consider going back, Bubba replied: "In a heartbeat, I would go back in a heartbeat. They have few things to work with and we have so much available at our fingertips."

To create relationships and memories that will last a lifetime, become a Global Partners volunteer. For more information, contact ext. 51903 or visit our visit Global Partners.

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Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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